ABILENE - The Abilene Christian men's and women's basketball teams will hit the road this weekend in search of their first Lone Star Conference victories. Their quest begins Saturday night at Eastern New Mexico followed by a Monday stopover at Midwestern State.
All four games will be broadcast locally on KSLI 1280 AM with ACU sportscaster Grant Boone handling the play-by-play duties. Saturday's broadcast begins at 6:25 p.m. CT/5:25 MT. Monday's starts at 5:25 p.m. CT.
Both Wildcat teams were left reeling following a pair of disappointing home losses Tuesday night to West Texas A&M. The women's team (3-4, 0-3 LSC) lost 80-61 despite receiving 22 points from the conference's leading scorer Mack Lankford (19.1), while the men (5-4, 0-2 LSC) rallied all the way back from an 18-point second half deficit only to fall 61-58. Zach Williams led ACU with 16 points and seven rebounds.
The Mustangs' men's team - ranked 24th in the nation - remains the lone unbeaten team in the conference at 8-0 and are 3-0 against league opponents. Two of those wins took place this past week as MSU dispatched both Angelo State (65-61) and Incarnate Word (66-52).
Mustang junior guard JaMichael Rivers was named the conference's Offensive Player of the Week for his role in the Angelo State victory, scoring a season-high 30 points, including 12 in the final eight minutes that helped MSU erase a 53-41 deficit.
Midwestern State is first in the league with a +18.2 scoring margin and ranks among the top three in several defensive categories, including rebounding margin (+9.2), blocked shots (4.4) and scoring defense (59.2). And despite shooting just 44 percent from the field, the Mustangs' offense ranks second only to Eastern New Mexico with 77.5 points per game.
The Greyhounds enter the week with an overall record of 8-3 (1-2 LSC) and recently scored their first conference win Thursday night after beating Angelo State, 71-62. Reggie Nelson, the league's leader with a .463 3-point field-goal percentage, led all players with 20 points and eight rebounds.
Nelson along with teammates Stefan Mirabal and Tralyn Harden are all ranked among the conference's top-ten 3-point shooters, and have propelled Eastern to a No. 1 conference ranking with 84.5 points per game. The Greyhounds also have hit the century mark three times this season, dropping 110 on Southwest New Mexico, 107 on Oklahoma Panhandle and 104 on New Mexico Highlands.
At the same time, however, Eastern ranks last in scoring defense with 75.4 points allowed per game with opponents shooting 43.6 percent from the field. The Greyhounds are also second to last with a -1.2 rebounding margin.
Unlike their male counterparts, the Zias (2-7, 1-3 LSC) are off to a slow start and mired in a three-game losing streak in which they're averaging 39 points per game. The Zias' 31 points Thursday night at Angelo State was their lowest of the season and marked the second time this year they've been held under 40 points (L, 33-54 at New Mexico).
Eastern's Precious Herrin ranks second to Lankford with 18.4 points per game, but the Zias are shooting just 35.8 percent from the field as a team and are at the bottom of the conference in scoring offense with 55.1 points per game. Eastern has been especially helpless behind the 3-point arc with a .212 shooting percentage (22-of-104), and is also last in terms of rebounding (-3.6) and turnover margins (-4.56).
The Midwestern State women's team has won four of its last five since starting the year 1-2 to begin the weekend at 5-3 (2-1). Earlier in the week the Mustangs rebounded from a 64-58 loss at Angelo State with a 68-50 thumping of Incarnate Word, in which four players scored in double figures led by Kirsti Degelia's 11 points.
The Mustangs have just one player (Savannah Carver) ranked among the conference's top ten scorers, but remain its leader with 78.5 points per game and are fifth with a .403 shooting percentage. They also rank third in 3-point accuracy (.353), and are first in steals (12.3) and turnover margin (+7.38).
The Wildcats will be off from action for several days due to the Christmas Break following this weekend's series. The men return to Moody Coliseum Friday, Dec. 30 for a 7 p.m. game vs. Dallas Baptist, while the women head to West Texas for its annual Holiday Classic that will pit the Wildcats vs. Shaw (Dec. 28) and Southwestern Oklahoma (Dec. 29).
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